Letter to the Editor: Why I am voting yes in the May 9 special election
On May 9th, I will be voting yes for Madison to transition its form of municipal government from Mayor-Council to Mayor/Council – City Manager. I offer the following rationale for why I am voting this way:
• Our mayor must focus much more on being a savvy politician to keep Madison recognized at the County, State and Federal levels due to north Alabama’s unprecedented growth. Gone are the days where a mayor occasionally attended a dinner or two with Huntsville and County Commissioners. Today, our mayor must understand the complex growth of industry and government across North Alabama and insert Madison’s best interests into the mix. It’s a significant job that takes time, relationships, study and strategy. Madison’s Mayor can no longer play regional checkers – it must play master-level chess!
• Madison has about 16 departments that execute the City’s business and service its citizens. Currently our mayor must be aware of and influence those department heads, settle personnel / funding conflicts when they happen, and try to collectively herd them all along the priority path set by Council. When one looks at the various needs of each department, the financial and staffing requirements, managing all that is huge.
• Currently, Council sets the City’s priorities and authorizes financial outlays. The mayor has no vote when Council decides an issue, passes a resolution or a municipal law (ordinance). If the mayor’s priorities are not Council’s, it is a real problem. I personally experienced this as a Council representative when we had significant conflict with the mayor and poor communications. I’ve seen this work well and I’ve experienced it working poorly. A voting mayor that serves as Council president can help mitigate the disconnect that can arise in our current form of government.
A qualified and seasoned city manager relieves the mayor of the daily management of 16 department heads and allows him/her to focus on the strategic future and needed priorities of our city. As the mayor will become the Council president – coordination between district reps and the mayor will be much better. Mayor and Council are still subject to the citizen’s election and input. More importantly, they set the priorities for and oversee the City Manager.
There is a lot of negative fear about moving to this form of government and little of it makes sense to me. Most of the complaints I hear about Madison’s government are about our current mayor-council form of government! As with any organization, the key will be in finding and hiring the right person, but that is true with electing the right person. I watch the success of our City School System – the superintendent is essentially doing what a city manager would do. And notice that not one BOE member is elected – all are council appointed. Couldn’t mayor and council be trusted to hire the right city manager?
Finally, I look at many local businesses – many have office managers. It boils down to finding the right person and as long as the mayor/council can hire and fire a city manager, I believe it is in our best interest to give it a shot.
Michael T Potter
Ex District 4 Councilman (2012-2016)
Planning Commissioner (2008 – present)
HOA board member, president (2003-present)